Google's algorithm really is a darkart

Keyword: myth

Lana del Rey: Dealing with the inexplicable

How do myths arise? Religious scholars, psychologists and philosophers have theorized about this for centuries. Today we like to follow Jürgen Habermas or Niklas Luhmann's understanding of myth. Jürgen Habermas defines myth - here greatly abbreviated - as an archaic knowledge that influences our norms of action over centuries of tradition. For him, myths arose from the experience of being at the mercy of the imponderables of an uncontrollable environment. For Niklas Luhmann - also very simplified - myths are the result of an early traditional self-description. They define the social relationship to the unfamiliar. The myth is such a pre-rational way of dealing with the inexplicable.

It is significant that we find it so difficult today with myths in the sense described. The term "myth" is stamped on everything possible (and impossible). But mostly this is nothing more than a stale attempt at unspecific, para-religious marketing. Just put it to the test and look at the image results of a Google search. The results are devastating: sneakers, bicycle helmets, cars, motorcycles, beer, even the Weser Stadium etc. appear once you have worked your way through photos of the computer game "Mythos". Well, what should Google do when asked about the unpredictable. This is where digital omniscience ends in scrappy banality. (Searching for "myth" on Twitter brings a far more intelligent and differentiated result - albeit devastatingly rationalistic ...)

The myth's new clothes

Myths and the unpredictable, even deeply embedded survival experiences from pre-rational times (see above) in our collective subconscious, that may not fit in with the infinite info-panopticon of the digital world. And in its diffuse, subconscious quality it is diametrically opposed to the openness of the Internet and the omnipresent skepticism and scrutiny of the web community. A nice thought about this is formulated in what is perhaps the most intelligent review of Lana del Rey's debut album “Born To Die” by John Calveri and was published in the online music magazine “The Quietus”. In addition to a reasonable - quite positive - assessment of the album, Calveri thinks about the problem of still being able to create myths, let alone celebrate them, in times of the Internet and its rabid kind of ubiquitous decuviation, its addiction to transparency and authenticity.

He admires the abundance of quotes from the glamor culture of Hollywood from the 50s to the 70s, which is gathered in the album - and at the same time aptly describes the present in all its talks and its reference and vintage addiction. Because that's the easiest way to get close to a decal of myth today - that's what they think. And Lana del Rey counteracts this rent-a-myth mentality with its excessive use. Quote from Calveri: "It's tempting to interpret Born To Die as the culmination of over 70-odd years of pop industry progress, in terms of the dark art of myth-making. It's now as if life is imitating art in real time, worse, in digital time, with both tiers - life and art - forward-planned to coincide. " These are exactly the digital times: the arbitrary mixture of quotation and reality, of art and life, banality and myth.

Projection fantasies of the journaille

The mythical disguise of a pretty, a little awkward twentieth year has succeeded in a very remarkable way. Initiated as a virally functioning video collage for "Video Games", which has been clicked tens of millions of times, it has extremely successfully fired the imagination of (music) journalists with its homeopathically dosed cryptic references and biographical contradictions. Are their lips splashed? Is she a millionaire's daughter or a trailer park girl? Did she really produce the video on the iPad? The projections of the non-digital (!) Press successfully kidnapped Lana del Rey from every reality, from the everyday banality reference system. Again quote from Calveri: "A lost art in the internet age, it's precisely that distance, that sense of untouchability, which renders Del Rey mysterious; a comfortably numb semi-goddess imprisoned in the isolation of stardom, both on Born To Die and, since her rise to ubiquity, in real life as well. Suffice to say, it's brain-twistingly meta. "

The inscrutable mixture of dream and reality that emerges in this way is the only method currently still working to defend the inquisitorial research rage of the Internet community and the all-profaning media and to save a touch of mystery. This game of reality and exaggeration extends to the smallest musical detail. Bullous string arrangements are underlaid with cold, protracted trip-hop rhythms. Hymn melodies, harps and bells are consistently backed up with documentary sound documents in FM quality, rap, children's screams, computer and modem functional sounds, fireworks, crackling vinyl records, breathing noises or radar pings. Lana del Rey's lyrics work with similar breaks between dream and reality, love and violence.

Marketing alá Fellini

It is not for nothing that John Calveri quotes the grand master of the assemblage of dream and reality Frederico Fellini ("8 1/2"):“In the end, (Lana del Reys) debut is essentially a lattice of Fellini-esque postmodernism. (...) The difference is, Fellini never had the internet. Blurring the line between dreams and reality gets a whole lot more complicated when you have a fourth dimension to play with. " The fourth dimension is virtuality in the age of the Internet. In this world, in the ideal case of successful myth-making and mystification, the artist becomes the plaything of the fantasies and projections of the listeners and viewers.

And in order to make this sim-effect of projection work in virtual space, a really extensive arsenal of signs, quotes, references, urban legends - and sounds, melodies and images must be offered, from which everyone can then choose according to their own taste may use his imagination. And the offer should be consistent, but at the same time it must not be too homogeneous. Only something that is contradictory to a certain extent can appear authentic. In this way, myth actually arises in the Habermassian sense as the experience of being at the mercy of the imponderables of an uncontrollable environment - now a world that has become hyper-complex. Or neo-myth a lá Luhmann emerges as a para-rational way of dealing with the inexplicable in popular culture.

The backfire effect

Something like that doesn't only work when mythizing a pop singer. Lana del Rey as a media phenomenon can also serve as a blueprint for branding and branding. It may sound presumptuous: Anyone who always wants to make their brand a myth, or at least want to charge it mythically in times of digital omnipresence, should take a close look at the Lana del Rey phenomenon. Listen to the music in a loop, watch the videos carefully - and learn from them.

But once a myth is stable, the flood of information and the diversity of opinions on the Internet help to stabilize and even cement myths. Scientists at the University of Michigan have studied the topic and found that any attempt to counter myths through information and arguments inevitably fails, because in every counter-argument itself an existing opinion (even if it is fundamentally wrong) has to be mentioned again and it only digs deeper into the memory. Deeper than any counter-argument. Scientists call this the "backfire effect" because the more familiar a thing is to people, the more likely they are to believe it. (The SZ reported in its print edition on February 1, 2012 in the knowledge section under the - somewhat misleading - heading “How to convince stubborn heads”. Unfortunately, the article is - once again - not put online.)

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